Thursday, June 5, 2014

Quetzaltrekkers Hike

As usual, we were in another city surrounded by volcanoes - León, Nicaragua. We'd heard about an awesome volunteer organization, Quetzaltrekkers, which leads hikes all over the surrounding area with 100% of profits supporting local organizations that help provide support for at risk kids. We met at the office and they provided breakfast and we got a chance to get to know our fellow hikers. Fortunately we had an awesome bunch. Everyone was Canadian, so, needless to say, everyone was awesome. I've never met a Canadian I didn't like before. 

Driving out to the starting site, Cerro Negro

Here's Cerro Negro from a distance. It's Central America's youngest volcano with only 160 years under her belt. It's still active and erupts about every 7 years. She's due to blow soon, which was pretty cool. It was a fairly short hike up and once at the top you could smell sulfur and see heat and steam rising from different spots in the ground, which was pretty hot to the touch. Once up there we suited up in full jumpsuits, goggles, and gloves and proceeded to volcano board down. Like sledding. But on a volcano. I wanted to ensure I went fast after seeing a few others struggle to get going and launched myself from a different starting point. Stupid. I indeed went fast but my joyride was short lived as I quickly veered from the past, gained way too much speed entirely and was thrown from the board (imagine a toboggan of sorts). As my face met the rocky volcanic earth and I rolled down for a bit I felt my shoulder come out of it's socket and was thrilled to come to a stop only to find it wasn't goin' back in easily. I slumped down the rest of the mountain with my gimp arm hanging lifelessly beside me hoping there was a nurse or doctor below. None could be found but one of the guys, Blaze, helped to support it and keep the pain at bay. It was pretty gnarly lookin' with the end of my clavicle at my shoulder visible in a way I'd never seen before.  Anyways, as it was pulled away from my body more it eventually sucked itself back into the socket and all was well. Because I'm sure you wanna know, it looked something like this:


We proceeded to the next part of our hike, which was a pretty hellacious, very steep upward climb under the scorching afternoon sun. Above is when we finally got to rest and eat lunch after about an hour and a half of hard work. 

As always, the work's always worth it. 

As it was nearing dusk we were about at the end of the day's hike. Before getting to camp, though, we had to gather firewood. With one more thing added to our load of stuff to carry, we were pretty eager to be done for the day. Our packs were stuffed with 9 liters of water, food, tents and other miscellaneous stuff equaling about 30 lbs. 

The top of El Hoyo Volcano where a sink hole appeared sometime in the 50's. They're not entirely sure how or why it formed but a logical guess is that it was an empty lava chamber that caved in when an earthquake occurred. 

One of our awesome Aussie guides, Nick. 

Nearing camp, overlooking Momotombo Volcano and Lake Managua. 

Bottom right is where we set up camp

El Hoyo

Admiring the insides of El Hoyo

In the distance you can see Lake Asososca, where we'd hike to the next day for a much needed swim.

The beautiful surrounding hills and valleys 

We enjoyed sunset atop the very peak of El Hoyo before hiking back down to start a fire and cook dinner.

We had a delicious veggie packed pasta with homemade sauce and s'mores that night as the clouds blew over us and through our campsite. We were also lucky enough to hear some of Josh and Lindsay's singing which is sweeter than any dessert we could have enjoyed.

There were several tents but they would have been reeeeal cozy so Melissa and I opted for some good old fashioned cowboy camping and slept outside beneath the stars. It wasn't the best sleep ever, with it being so damp and feeling soggy and cold all night, however, I didn't mind at all seeing that anytime I woke up I was faced with an incredible night sky. I was happy to awake each time to sit and wonder for awhile before dozing back off.

We awoke to the sunrising right before us

After about a 4-5 hour descent and lots of sweating, we made it to Lake Asososca, a crater lake with a view of where we'd just come from. If you look you can see El Hoyo here. 

                                                                          So stylish 

We hiked through some farms and people's yards, making our way to find a road where we'd catch a chicken bus to bring us back into León, but not before stopping for several cold beers and any other cold refreshment we could get our hands on.

That night we all went out for a volcano family dinner and housed some pizzas. So many pizzas. 

Overall it was a great hike and great experience meeting so many amazing people. These guys were hilarious and definitely made the hike more entertaining. Thanks for the good time crew!

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